Apr 5th, 2011 by danlhays
Have you ever felt like everybody had to be OK with anything you did? One of the traits I carried into adulthood from growing up in an alcoholic family was constantly seeking approval for my actions.
Has it ever seemed like you are numb to the events in your world? It has for me. When I was 8 my grandfather died, and the family acted as if nothing happened, and I felt no sadness or emotions about it. I had learned to stuff my feelings, and carried that into my adult life.
Have you ever felt like a little kid in an adult world? Remember the movie Big, with Tom Hanks? I was in an adult body, but in many ways I was still 13 year old Josh Baskin, sitting in a dumpy motel room in New York City, scared to death.
Have you ever felt like you're responsible for everything that happens? Whatever is going on - somehow, it is your fault? You are to blame.
Isolation is one of the most damaging effects of growing up in an alcoholic household. Like many adult children of alcoholics, I had this trait.
Has it ever seemed like there were chunks of your childhood you just couldn't remember? I know most people have things they have forgotten, but what I'm talking about is where there might be blank spaces in your past.
I decide in my early '20s the one thing I wanted most in life was not to be like my Dad. Then I realized with a shock I had become just like my Father.
Has it ever felt like you give up easily if something doesn't seem to be working out? I discovered that for me, it was connected to being put down or humiliated when I successfully completed a project as a child.
Have you ever felt like you were so caught up in analyzing problems that you were immobilized? Stewing over problems without deciding was a way not to take a risk, and I had to learn to work on problems differently in order to actually solve them.
Have you ever wondered what was normal in a certain situation. I often have, because in my household growing up, there were very few stable patterns of behavior - everything was unpredictable.
Yes, no, black or white, for me or against me. Any of that sound familiar? Either you agreed with me, or I would have to make you a bad person in my mind to defend my position. I have learned to respect the opinions of others, and sometimes "agree to disagree."
Have you ever found yourself lying about something when there was really no reason to do so? As a child, if I admitted to anything, it could lead to a negative and painful consequence. I learned to always deny knowing anything.
Have you ever found yourself defending someone who is taking advantage of you? I had a friend who would call every time he needed some help with his house. But he was never around when I needed something. I had to decide my time was worth more than that.
Has it ever felt like you struggled to finish things - an assignment at work, a fixit project at home? As a child, I learned that things just never got finished where you could enjoy them. I continued that logic into adulthood.
Is there something inside you that makes you sense that if you talk about what's going on with you, it will lead to bad things? I had to learn all over how to talk about what happened and what was happening, and how I felt about it.
Do you ever let people get close, and then it feels like they're too close, and you push them away? I would even create fights with someone after we'd gotten close. I had to realize that not everyone was dangerous and threatening.
Have you ever felt like you were out of step with the world around you? I remember being at a church retreat with 70 people, and here I was, somehow separated and different from the others in the group.
Have you ever been told you're controlling? I was told that, and didn't like it, but as I started looking at how I was living in my world, I discovered it was true. I was trying to control today's events like I couldn't control the alcoholic family of my teenage years.
Have you ever been told you overreact to things? I've heard that a lot, because things that happened in my world all seemed out of proportion or scarier than they actually were.
Have you ever felt like you can't tell people who you really are? In my case, I couldn't because I didn't know who I was. And I was afraid if people discovered how I really was, they wouldn't like me.
There's a saying in some literature that says we won't regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it. I didn't think that statement could apply to me. But as a result of doing the hard work of recovery, I've seen it come true.
I knew a guy once who was just waiting for his alcoholic mother die - so he would no longer have to deal with his issues around her drinking. It didn't happen that way. He tried to avoid it, but he would act like she was still in the room, telling him the same negative messages from childhood.
There's a saying, we will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. I didn't believe that was possible for a long time, until I saw it happening in my world.
If I am invisible and no one sees me, then no one can hurt me. A friend told me she used to watch me walk into our Sunday School class, trying to slide into the back and disappear into the crowd.
One of the roles in an alcoholic family is to be the hero - the one who fixes the problem, cleans up the mess from the drinking, and is viewed as a savior within that world. I did that a lot, but it was just a mask I hid behind, so people wouldn't see how scared and inadequate I usually felt.
Do you hate conflict? Want to always make peace wherever you are? I learned that as a child - to smooth over the rough waters so conflict would hopefully go away. If there was no conflict, there could be no dangerous backsplash on me.
Do you ever feel like you're responding to life based on some old messages stuck in your head? I was living that way, until I was introduced to affirmation. I Dan, am a loving and worthwhile person.
Ever had an upset stomach? I did for years, and thought it was exclusively a physical ailment. When I started working on my issues from growing up in an alcoholic family, I realized my upset stomach was something I had first experienced in the turbulence and uncertainty of the violent household.
Have you ever been confused by a double message? By that I mean the sort of things I learned as a child. "You're incompetent - take care of the house." I learned to be very responsible as a child, while at the same time being told I wasn't very good at whatever I was doing.